UPDATE:Due to a scheduling conflict, our conversation with Lynn Chen is now scheduled for Monday, April 11 at 7 pm PT.Lynn Chen is a woman after Erin and my own hearts... and stomachs. She's a foodie as well as a talented actress and musician, and she writes one blog, "The Actor's Diet," about "the life of a Hollywood actress. Meal by meal," and recently launched another, "Thick Dumpling Skin," about Asians' diet and body issues, with Hyphen publisher Lisa Lee.
We're thrilled to announce that we'll be speaking with Lynn for our next visualizAsian show on TUESDAY, APRIL 26MONDAY APRIL 11 at 7 pm PT (10 pm for you folks on the east coast). Just register here for the free dial-in and webinar information -- if you've registered for previous visualizAsian calls, you'll already receive the info.
Wow, you missed a powerful conversation with Lynn on April 11, but you can still register to hear the archived MP3 of the call for 30 days.
Lynn Chen, whose "excessive beauty makes us want to rip our eyeballs out," according to the ladies of the Disgrasian blog, was born in Queens, New York in 1976 to a mother who sang at the Metropolitan Opera and a father who is an ethnomusicologist, and she was raised in New Jersey and attended Wesleyan University.
As a child, Lynn sang with the Children's Choirs at the Metropolitan and NYC Opera Houses, and made her acting debut in the NY State Theatre production of "South Pacific" at Lincoln Center. Television credits include "NCIS: LA," "Numbers," guest roles on almost all of the "Law and Order" shows, and recurring roles in "All My Children" and "The Singles Table," opposite John Cho and Alicia Silverstone.
Of her films, Lynn's best-known as "Vivian Shing" in Sony Pictures Classic's feature film "Saving Face," a role for which she won the "Outstanding Newcomer Award" at the 2006 Asian Excellence Awards. Since then she has appeared in over a dozen films, most recently starring in "White on Rice," "Why Am I Doing This?." "The People I've Slept With," and the just-released "Surrogate Valentine," which is making the rounds of film festivals.
"Surrogate Valentine" was directed by Dave Boyle, the young filmmaker who also wrote and directed "White on Rice," a terrific indie film, and it's a fictionalized story of the real-life experiences of singer-songwriter Goh Nakamura. The film was the closing night selection of the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival, and just screened at SXSW Film in Austin.
But Lynn isn't just limited to acting. In fact, she took some time off from acting to deal with her eating disorders, and started "The Actor's Diet" in 2009 as a way to write about food and to hold herself accountable for eating healthy (with the burgers and fried thrown in). Here's how she explains the blog:
I should have written about New Asian Cuisine a long time ago, since I've been subscribing to the site's email newsletter for years. Seriously, I don't know what I'm thinking. NAC is just plain cool, and worth visiting. Regularly.
The site is a treasure trove for foodies who love to cook, and who love Asian cuisine. You'll find a fabulous array of diverse recipes, both traditional and contemporary, authentic and fusion. Here's how the creators of the site describe it:
Wow. As if buying crappy-tasting, unauthentic "sushi" at your local supermarket or Costco wasn't enough, they've found a way to completely commodify sushi -- sushi rolls, at least -- as a mass-produced pre-packaged snack food. Sushi Poppers are individually wrapped sushi rolls on a stick that you eat like... a Popsicle, those quiescently frozen confections.
In fact, you can even buy Sushi Poppers online, and have it delivered frozen, packed with dry ice. They claim they'll be fine frozen for up to 30 days. I dunno, I've never been able to eat sushi that's even refrigerated overnight, never mind frozen for a month. I may have to order some just to test it. You get six tubes of sushi on a stick, with seven pieces in each roll (that's 42 pieces), for $29.95. You can get various flavors, including ones with raw tuna, spicy tuna or salmon, cooked fish, vegetarian, meat (teriyaki chicken or beef, miso chicken) and some dessert flavors.
It seems they're really stretching the definition of "sushi" here.
If you're suspicious of ordering frozen sushi through the mail, the company is planning to have the Poppers available at retailers nationwide, with the sushi made locally.
Erin and I have always been wistfully jealous of our friends in Los Angeles and San Francisco, for lots of reasons but not least the fact that they can eat killer ramen any night of the week. We have our fave ramen-yas in both San Francisco's Japantown and LA's Little Tokyo ("ya" means "shop"). There's also great ramen to be had on the East Coast -- I've slurped up wonderful noodles and steamy broth in New York City's funky little "Japantown" district on the lower East side
In Denver, for many years we had only one ramen-ya: Oshima Ramen, which was good (albeit pricey) when it opened about a decade ago, and has over the past few years become increasingly dirtier and greasier, and the ramen less special and more bland. As it went downhill, it gave us less and less reason to drive all the way across town for a sad bowl of noodles. Some people (including some food critics who don't know better) think it's "the real thing" but uh, sorry.
So Erin and I have made it a holy mission to find good ramen without flying to the coast, and some brave Japanese restaurants have met the challenge just in the past year or so.
The best we've found in the area is Okole Maluna, a Hawai'ian restaurant an hour north of Denver in the tiny eastern plains town of Windsor, whose owners serve a killer Saimin (Hawai'ian-style ramen). There's a very good, very authentic ramen served in a little take-out food court in Boulder called Bento Zanmai. Although it'a a bit unorthodox, the miso-ginger ramen served at the late Hisashi â€œBrianâ€ Takimoto's East Colfax restaurant, Taki's, is very good. And now, even the fast-foody Kokoro is serving ramen (but at only one location, on 6th and Broadway, and only after 4 pm). We keep hearing about a Korean-run Japanese restaurant in Longmont that we haven't made it to. But as you can see, we're willing to drive for a good bowl of ramen, so we'll get there eventually.
Imagine our surprise, then, to find that there's been a veritable explosion of ramen happening right under our nose (is that a triple mixed metaphor?) -- and that it's not ramen made by Asians!
Ouch. I stand humbled... and embarrassed. I've changed my views on my long-held need to have Japanese words (especially food) pronounced correctly. I was such a purist about it that in the past I've even offered a pronunciation guide for often-mangled Japanese words.
But tonight, I realized that despite Erin and my interest in and curiosity for all Asian cultures -- especially when it comes to food -- and our efforts to pronounce words correctly, I blew it when it comes to some of the most common Asian words we eat: Chinese food.
Pho has evolved over the years, from its invention in 1920s Hanoi to its popularity in the U.S. today. When the soup, with rice noodles and meats served in a hearty broth, first arrived in the stateside, the restaurants catered to mostly Vietnamese diners, like an exclusive club. As non-Vietnamese discovered pho, the restaurants became more inviting, and the diners more diverse.
When we first started going to pho restaurants, we weren't always treated very warmly, because we were outsiders -- clearly not Vietnamese. These days, pho restaurants have evolved. We're welcomed as regulars at our favorite neighborhood pho spot, Pho 78, and all sorts of folks enjoy pho. Even Denver, not exactly known as an Asian American mecca, has dozens of pho restaurants, many with the odd names including nonsensical numbers.
Pho-Yo! is the next evolution. When you step in you might not even think it looks and feels like a typical, funky family-run pho restaurant.
The difference starts with the menu: itâ€™s an Asianfusion combo of the popular Vietnamese noodle soup, pho, and the popular dessert, frozen yogurt.
Since the fastest-growing population in the United States is mixed-race and we live in an increasingly global and multicultural world, it makes perfect sense that a restaurant like Boa on West 32nd would open, and serve a mashup of Mexican and various Asian cuisines.
Erin and I got to sample some of Boa's cooking recently, when we were asked by Asian Avenue magazine to write up one of their 'Restaurant Peek" features on the eatery. We met photographer ace Brandon Iwamoto there and tasted the food and spoke with the owners on an afternoon interrupted by a tornado warning and a twister curling down from the sky in the neighborhood (it never touched down).
Inside, the restaurant reflected none of the dark fury of the weather outside (except when the entire staff and all the customers ran out in the street to gape at the funnel cloud).
The small, comfy eatery is located in the heart of the bustling, hip Highlands business district off 32nd and Lowell, and welcomes passersby who look puzzled at the combination of Asian and Latin foods. When they give it a try, say the co-owners and chefs, Julie Villafana and Braydon Wong, they like it.
Consumer culture in Japan is where you'll see the collision of Asian and American tastes. More than in the U.S., Japan is where East mashes West. You can get shrimp Filet-o-Fish sandwiches at McDonald's, or pizza with seaweed or squid, and spaghetti with salty plum sauce.
So I supposes I shouldn't be dismayed at the new Coca-Cola flavor, Green Tea Coke. After all, here in the states there seems to be a growiing market for almost anything with green tea added, from soap and shampoos to Lipton Ice Tea and Starbucks' Matcha Latte.
But Coke with green tea?
I'm not much of a Coke fan (Pepsi's the choice if I have a cola at all), so I don't care that much about the purity of the soft drink. But it seems heresy to put green tea into the syrupy sweetness. Can you even taste the subtle bitterness?
This fits right in with conversations I've had recently with (non-Asian) co-workers about Lipton's green tea flavored ice tea. I pointed out that Asians don't sweeten their tea.
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